Stepping aboard Aqua Expeditions' 32-passenger Amazon Aria, moored at the entrance to the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve in Nauta, is like walking into a floating boutique hotel.
Floor-to-ceiling windows in the suites offer views of the Ucayali River, the Amazon's largest tributary, along with pink dolphins, migratory birds and local fishermen in canoes. The ship's lounge doubles as meeting space, where naturalists discuss the river's bounty, while the bistro-like restaurant serves local cuisine.
Excursions are led by skilled guides, many of whom grew up on the river. Help deliver school supplies to a local village, fish for piranha, or trek into the jungle to glimpse toucans and monkeys. Or sit on the riverbank and admire the seven-foot-wide water lilies.